Computer integrated manufacturing uses computers to control the entire production process. Separate processes within the overall manufacturing process, such as making the engine and making the body of the car, can exchange information with each other. As a result, the computer can initiate another action, such as putting the engine in the car. Many CIM processes also work with robotics, to enable the whole process to be completed automatically.
Computer-integrated manufacturing improves productivity by a significant amount. Activities such as reporting are performed automatically, without the delays associated with people-based transactions, so there is no lag time between operations. This means that more work can be achieved in the same amount of time as non-computer-integrated processes.
Computer integrated manufacturing systems need to be set up with a lot of data in order to run properly. However, once the data has been input, CIM performs many functions automatically, with minimal human intervention. People are still needed to monitor the systems, but most instances of human error are eliminated.
With the ability through computer-integrated manufacturing to create automated manufacturing processes, it is possible to increase the effectiveness of existing machinery and processes. For example, it may be possible to programme some activities to be performed, unmanned, at night. Many non-CIM machines can have as much as 50% downtime. This can be reduced to 15% through computer-integrated manufacturing.
With so many parts of the system being automated, fewer people are required to do the unskilled or semi-skilled jobs that can be done by robots. Employers save labour costs in these areas, although there is clearly a disadvantage to communities where people depended on the availability manufacturing work. However, reducing the number of these lower skills jobs, while increasing productivity, does mean that there is potential for an increase in the number of high-value, and therefore better paid, jobs.